Friday, July 17, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: Zim's Course/Lena Undt Loui

It may seem incredible that Zim, the poster-boy for hard-working cartoonists, created only one continuing newspaper feature. Yet it's true. Eugene Zimmerman, known to all by his famous abbreviated signature 'Zim', was an underachiever in this one particular field of endeavor.

Zim was a top cartoonist at Puck and Judge in the last two decades of the 19th century. However, in the 20th century he found himself scrambling for work and you're liable to find his cartoons in some of the oddest places. He had a penchant for getting himself involved in offbeat publications, like H.H. Windsor's Cartoons and Movies and Guy Lockwood's Art & Life magazines.

Although he created his fair share of one-shot and spot newspaper cartoons, his only series (which you can alternatively count as three to boost his numbers) was for the McClure Syndicate in 1911-12. The feature started out on September 3 1911 as a full page divided into two sections. The top half was titled Zim's Personally Conducted Course of Comic Art and Zimplified Drawing. It featured ersatz drawing lessons like the one shown above. The bottom of the page was initially titled Raphael Rembrandt and the strip featured a stereotypical crazy artist in a gag vaguely related to the 'lesson' above. On October 22 the bottom half changed titles to Lena Undt Loui Took Lessons Midt Art, featuring a pair of caricatured Germans whose children (and eventually they) take a correspondence school art course conducted, of course, by Zim. And yes, Zim really did run a cartooning correspondence school at the time. This frankly seems like really bad advertising for it.

This setup didn't last for long. On November 19 the bogus drawing lessons ceased and the German characters took the page all to themselves. The title and subject of the strip remained focused on art until May 12 1912. Then Lena and Loui went on a vacation and the strip was retitled Lena undt Loui Tooks a Trip. The strip ended on June 9.


I ran across a cartooning instruction book written by Zim in the school library when I was a kid, and thought he was terrific. I still do, in spite of the racial stereotypes that were part of the game back then. However, this strip doesn't present him very well. For a link that has samples of more typical Zim fare, try
What an odd gag...that the roosters who were "friends for life" turn into battling English and Irish when painted orange and green. Even in an age steeped in ethnic humor, this is quite a reach!
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